Scotland reopening: Businesses in the Highlands slowly welcome back customers as those in the central belt enjoy a booming first day of trade

As coronavirus restrictions eased across the country on Monday, businesses in the Central Belt were overwhelmed with customers – however those further north in the Highlands experienced a different story.

After four months of strict lockdown restrictions, mainland Scotland moved from Level 4 down to Level 3 on Monday, April 26.

The step meant that gyms, non-essential retail and the hospitality industry could reopen.

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Scenes across Glasgow and Edinburgh saw seemingly endless lines outside shops and pubs filling up with customers right from 11am.

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Similar scenes were seen in Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands, with a staff member at Johnny Foxes bar saying they were enjoying such a busy first day back that they couldn’t spare anyone to offer an official quote.

However, businesses in the more rural Highlands weren’t met with quite the same enthusiasm, although many expected it, saying they are confident trade will pick up.

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Victor Robertson runs Wickers World, a cafe and guest house in Wick, with his wife and businesses partner Ann Valerie Robertson.

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Rebecca Mackay, owner of Becca Mac in Dornoch, with her mother.

While the four-bed guest house didn’t have any bookings for Monday night, Mr Robertson told the Scotsman that the cafe saw a steady trade.

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He said: “It’s been quite steady but it’s been absolutely pouring with rain here though so we weren't getting anybody waiting in a queue for a takeaway or anything, if they can’t get straight in then they don’t hang about or stop.

"We’ve had a few sit-in customers though so we can’t complain, we’re just glad to be open again.”

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Wickers World enjoys a booming tourist trade during the summer being based on the North Coast 500 route, Mr Robertson continued: “It’s amazing how many people are keen on doing the North Coast 500, we get a lot of people from it, bikers and things.

The Wickers World cafe in Wick.
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"I think it’s going to be even busier this year.”

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Becca Mac, a clothing shop based in Dornoch reopened today after being closed since Christmas along with all other non-essential shops across Scotland.

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The view from Wickers World in Wick.

Owner, Rebecca Mackay, told the Scotsman: “We’re open but it’s a little bit quieter just now, I think people are just getting back into the swing of things again, but i’m expecting the end of the week to be really busy.

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"Last summer after we opened up we were absolutely crazy, I think as soon as all the tourists come up, and like I said, once all the locals get back into the swing of normality things will pick up."

Miss Mackay said they are “massively relieved” to be open again and that they are glad the second lockdown happened when it did.

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She continued: “It was a hard few months but January and February are always quieter anyway, so I’m relieved we’re going to be open for the really busy season.”

Isle of Skye

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Further west on the Isle of Skye, owner of the Sonas Collection, three award-winning family run hotels, Anne Grace Gunn said that bookings were quiet initially but they began to “really take off today”.

Two of the hotels, Duisdale and Toravaig, have fine dining restaurants which also saw an increase in the number of bookings made by people planning to visit Skye as restrictions eased today.

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Ms Gunn said that they are optimistic that “it is going to be a great season”.

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